Presentation on theme: "Henry David Thoreau, Wanderer: His trips to Maine and the climbing of Katahdin."— Presentation transcript:
Henry David Thoreau, Wanderer: His trips to Maine and the climbing of Katahdin
A short review of his life July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862, or forty-five years Born in Concord, MA and died in Concord, MA Only lived a bit away from Concord; when he was a student at Harvard and when he lived with the Emersons on Staten Island. Work: Surveyor, worker in parents pencil factory, teacher, and writer Noted for his experience at Walden Pond: July 4th, 1845 to September 6th, 1847
Pivotal Events Death of his brother by tetanus (July 11th, 1842) was the first pivotal event in his life. In essence to celebrate his brothers life, Thoreau wrote as an elegy A Week on the Concord and Merrimack. Second event came 16 days later with the death of the son of his friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
An outline of the talk His trips to Maine Equipment and preparation Experiences and highlights General outcomes of the trips
Trips to Maine The Maine Woods is actually three essays, Ktaadn (six chapters), Chesunkcook (six chapters) and Allagash and East Branch (ten chapters) They were later combined into a book. Essays based on three trips to Maine 1846, 1853, and 1857
What will I find in the book? Prose describing the trip Extended appendix that includes species lists of trees, shrubs, flowers, quadrupeds and birds list of things you need for a successful trip basic vocabulary that lists important woods, their meaning and which guide provided the word
What to bring? The following will be a good outfit for one who wishes to make an excursion of twelve days into the Maine woods in July, with a companion, and one Indian for the same purposes that I did. Thoreau, Appendix VI Wear,a check shirt, stout old shoes, thick socks, a neck ribbon, thick waistcoat, thick pants, old Kossuth hat, a linen sack. Carry,in an India-rubber knapsack, with a large flap, two shirts (check), one pair thick socks, one pair drawers, one flannel shirt, two pocket-handkerchiefs, a light India-rubber coat or a thick woollen one, two bosoms and collars to go and come with, one napkin, pins, needles, thread, one blanket, best gray, seven feet long. Tent,six by seven feet, and four feet high in middle, will do; veil and gloves and insect-wash, or, better, mosquito-bars to cover all at night; best pocket-map, and perhaps description of the route; compass; plant-book and red blotting-paper; paper and stamps, botany, small pocket spy-glass for birds, pocket microscope, tape-measure, insect-boxes. Axe, full size if possible, jackknife, fish-lines, two only apiece, with a few hooks and corks ready, and with pork for bait in a packet, rigged; matches (some also in a small vial in the waist-coat pocket); soap, two pieces; large knife and iron spoon (for all); three or four old newspapers, much twine, and several rags for dishcloths; twenty feet of strong cord, four-quart tin pail for kettle, two tin dippers, three tin plates, a fry-pan. Provisions.Soft hardbread, twenty-eight pounds; pork, sixteen pounds; sugar, twelve pounds; one pound black tea or three pounds coffee, one box or a pint of salt, one quart Indian meal, to fry fish in; six lemons, good to correct the pork and warm water; perhaps two or three pounds of rice, for variety. You will probably get some berries, fish, &c., beside.
Should I bring a gun? A gun is not worth the carriage, unless you go as hunters. The pork should be in an open keg, sawed to fit; the sugar, tea or coffee, meal, salt, &c., should be put in separate water-tight India-rubber bags, tied with a leather string; and all the provisions, and part of the rest of the baggage, put into two large India-rubber bags, which have been proved to be water- tight and durable.
How much will it cost me? Expense of preceding outfit is twenty-four dollars. An Indian may be hired for about one dollar and fifty cents per day, and perhaps fifty cents a week for his canoe (this depends on the demand). The canoe should be a strong and tight one. This expense will be nineteen dollars. Such an excursion need not cost more than twenty-five dollars apiece, starting at the foot of Moosehead, if you already possess or can borrow a reasonable part of the outfit. If you take an Indian and canoe at Oldtown, it will cost seven or eight dollars more to transport them to the lake.
How do I get there? You leave Concord on the 31st of August Travel by rail and steamer to Bangor Leave Bangor on the 1st of September by buggy, catch a ferry up the river. Ride by horseback 30 miles from the last log cabin to the base of the mountain.
Map of his trips
Who will I see? There are three classes of inhabitants who either frequent or inhabit the country which we had now entered;first, the loggers, who, for a part of the year, the winter and spring, are far the most numerous, but in the summer, except a few explorers for timber, completely desert it; second, the few settlers I have named, the only permanent inhabitants, who live on the verge of it, and help raise supplies for the former; third, the hunters, mostly Indians, who range over it in their season.
Where will I stay? In a local log cabin which is not only a residence, but a public lodging These camps were about twenty feet long by fifteen wide, built of logs,hemlock, cedar, spruce, or yellow birch,one kind alone, or all together, with the bark on; two or three large ones first, one directly above another, and notched together at the ends, to the height of three or four feet, then of smaller logs resting upon transverse ones at the ends, each of the last successively shorter than the other, to form the roof. The chimney was an oblong square hole in the middle, three or four feet in diameter, with a fence of logs as high as the ridge. The interstices were filled with moss, and the roof was shingled with long and handsome splints of cedar, or spruce, or pine, rifted with a sledge and cleaver. The fire-place, the most important place of all, was in shape and size like the chimney, and directly under it, defined by a log fence or fender on the ground, and a heap of ashes, a foot or two deep, within, with solid benches of split logs running round it.
Will I be comfortable? These houses are made comfortable by the huge fires, which can be afforded night and day. Usually the scenery about them is drear and savage enough; and the loggers' camp is as completely in the woods as a fungus at the foot of a pine in a swamp; no outlook but to the sky overhead; no more clearing than is made by cutting down the trees of which it is built, and those which are necessary for fuel. The logger's fare consists of tea, molasses, flour, pork (sometimes beef), and beans. A great proportion of the beans raised in Massachusetts find their market here. On expeditions it is only hard bread and pork, often raw, slice upon slice, with tea or water, as the case may be.
Whats it like travelling? The primitive wood is always and everywhere damp and mossy, so that I travelled constantly with the impression that I was in a swamp; and only when it was remarked that this or that tract, judging from the quality of the timber on it, would make a profitable clearing, was I reminded, that if the sun were let in it would make a dry field, like the few I had seen, at once. The best shod for the most part travel with wet feet. If the ground was so wet and spongy at this, the dryest part of a dry season, what must it be in the spring?
Whose going to be with us? There were six of us, including the two boatmen. With our packs heaped up near the bows, and ourselves disposed as baggage to trim the boat, with instructions not to move in case we should strike a rock, more than so many barrels of pork, we pushed out into the first rapid, a slight specimen of the stream we had to navigate. With Uncle George in the stern, and Tom in the bows, each using a spruce pole about twelve feet long, pointed with iron,(4) and poling on the same side, we shot up the rapids like a salmon, the water rushing and roaring around, so that only a practised eye could distinguish a safe course, or tell what was deep water and what rocks, frequently grazing the latter on one or both sides, with a hundred as narrow escapes as ever the Argo had in passing through the Symplegades.(5) I, who had had some experience in boating, had never experienced any half so exhilarating before.
Lets climb the mountain By six o'clock, having mounted our packs and a good blanketful of trout, ready dressed, and swung up such baggage and provision as we wished to leave behind, upon the tops of saplings, to be out of the reach of bears, we started for the summit of the mountain, distant, as Uncle George said the boatmen called it, about four miles, but as I judged, and as it proved, nearer fourteen. we struck at once for the highest peak, over a mile or more of comparatively open land still, very gradually ascending the while. Here it fell to my lot, as the oldest mountain-climber, to take the lead. So, scanning the woody side of the mountain, which lay still at an indefinite distance, stretched out some seven or eight miles in length before us, we determined to steer directly for the base of the highest peak, leaving a large slide, by which, as I have since learned, some of our predecessors ascended, on our left.
At length we reached an elevation sufficiently bare to afford a view of the summit, still distant and blue, almost as if retreating from us. A torrent, which proved to be the same we had crossed, was seen tumbling down in front, literally from out of the clouds. But this glimpse at our whereabouts was soon lost, and we were buried in the woods again. The wood was chiefly yellow birch, spruce, fir, mountain-ash, or round-wood, as the Maine people call it, and moose-wood. It was the worst kind of travelling; sometimes like the densest scrub-oak patches with us. The cornel, or bunch-berries, were very abundant, as well as Solomon's seal and moose-berries. Blueberries were distributed along our whole route; and in one place the bushes were drooping with the weight of the fruit, still as fresh as ever. It was the 7th of September. Such patches afforded a grateful repast, and served to bait the tired party forward. When any lagged behind, the cry of "blue-berries" was most effectual to bring them up. While my companions were seeking a suitable spot for this purpose, I improved the little daylight that was left, in climbing the mountain alone. At first scrambling on all fours over the tops of ancient black spruce- trees (Abies nigra), old as the flood, from two to ten or twelve feet in height, their tops flat and spreading, and their foliage blue, and nipt with cold, as if for centuries they had ceased growing upward against the bleak sky, the solid cold. I walked some good rods erect upon the tops of these trees, which were overgrown with moss and mountain-cranberries.
The peculiarities of that spacious table-land on which I was standing, as well as the remarkable semi-circular precipice or basin on the eastern side, were all concealed by the mist. I had brought my whole pack to the top, not knowing but I should have to make my descent to the river, and possibly to the settled portion of the State alone, and by some other route, and wishing to have a complete outfit with me. But at length, fearing that my companions would be anxious to reach the river before night, and knowing that the clouds might rest on the mountain for days, I was compelled to descend. Will we make it?
What impression does Thoreau leave us with about nature? Nature was here something savage and awful, though beautiful. I looked with awe at the ground I trod on, to see what the Powers had made there, the form and fashion and material of their work. This was that Earth of which we have heard, made out of Chaos and Old Night. Here was no man's garden, but the unhandselled globe. It was not lawn, nor pasture, nor mead, nor woodland, nor lea, nor arable, nor waste-land. It was the fresh and natural surface of the planet Earth, as it was made for ever and ever,to be the dwelling of man, we say,so Nature made it, and man may use it if he can. Man was not to be associated with it. It was Matter, vast, terrific,not his Mother Earth that we have heard of, not for him to tread on, or be buried in,no, it were being too familiar even to let his bones lie there,the home, this, of Necessity and Fate.
What is most striking in the Maine wilderness is the continuousness of the forest, with fewer open intervals or glades than you had imagined. Except the few burnt-lands, the narrow intervals on the rivers, the bare tops of the high mountains, and the lakes and streams, the forest is uninterrupted. It is even more grim and wild than you had anticipated, a damp and intricate wilderness, in the spring everywhere wet and miry. The aspect of the country, indeed, is universally stern and savage, excepting the distant views of the forest from hills, and the lake prospects, which are mild and civilizing in a degree. The lakes are something which you are unprepared for; they lie up so high, exposed to the light, and the forest is diminished to a fine fringe on their edges, with here and there a blue mountain, like amethyst jewels set around some jewel of the first water,so anterior, so superior, to all the changes that are to take place on their shores, even now civil and refined, and fair as they can ever be. These are not the artificial forests of an English king, a royal preserve merely. Here prevail no forest laws but those of nature. The aborigines have never been dispossessed, nor nature disforested.
What was accomplished? Although Thoreau didnt make it to the summit, the mountain had been summited prior to his visit. "The Maine Woods is one of the earliest and most detailed accounts of the process of change in the American hinterland. Thoreau showed us how to write about nature; how to know more; how to observe, even how to live..... In this book he illustrates the powerful lesson of the truthfulness of dogged observation: that when the truth is told, the text is prophetic." - Paul Theroux, January, 2004, from an introduction to The Maine Woods "An effective bosky and moosey picture of the deepest wilderness Thoreau was ever to explore. If Cape Cod tastes of salt, The Maine Woods smells of hemlock and balsam." - Walter Harding, in The Days of Henry Thoreau
Some contemporary reviews Continental Monthly, July 1864 The Atlantic Monthly, September 1864